Tiger v Gladiator
Horsham’s Ben Gumbrell experienced a baptism of fire to Bare Knuckle boxing last Saturday. In a bout which many thought he won, the “Gladiator” dropped his opponent to the canvas but narrowly lost on points. The captivating bout was the quarter final of BKB’s eight-man tournament with a £10,000 cash prize for the winner.
After a highly decorated 38-fight amateur career, Ben went 6-1 in semi-pro, becoming WKMA English and British Champion. His opponent was Tony Lafferty, an aggressive crowd-pleaser from Scotland. Stirling’s “Tiger” entered the ring with an impressive 3-1 Bare Knuckle record and the bookies’ backing as the 4/7 favourite. Bare Knuckle novice Gumbrell was unfazed however; “I like being the underdog and proving people wrong.”
Ben’s Bare Knuckle debut was in the sold-out Indigo room in the 02 London. Over 3,000 fans watched his nonchalant swagger to the ring, to the theme of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.
As the opening bell went, Lafferty rushed forward to take centre ring. With extraordinary composure, Gumbrell used his feet to control range and nullify his opponent’s aggression. The Scot landed some meaningful punches though, leaving Ben with a cut perilously close to his eyes. Ben contests that a punch caused the damage. “Through the fight, I couldn’t see out of my left eye caused by a headbutt in the first round”. Two judges sided with Lafferty and the other with Gumbrell.
Ben weathered an early storm in the second to rock his opponent with a clean left to the chin. Scrappy in-fighting left blood pouring from Ben’s cut. Though his face a red mask and his vision obscured, Gumbrell didn’t faulter. Still, two judges awarded the round to the Scotsman and the third called a draw.
Going into the final round, Ben knew he needed the knockout to win. In the closing seconds of the third and final round, the Tiger pounced straight onto a crisp 1-2 from Gumbrell. Down went Lafferty. The knockdown had scored Ben a vital extra point.
After three rounds of war, the judges could not announce a winner. BKB co-owner Jim Freeman then called for an unprecedented bonus round decider. Despite a punctured lung and a broken rib suffered in training four weeks earlier, Ben gave a valiant effort. Sadly, it wasn’t enough. Along with some fans on Facebook, Ben felt “It never needed to go the extra round, I had done enough already”.
Ben’s remarkable combination of brawn and brains drew praise from the fans, commentary team and his opponent. “That fight was one of the hardest I’ve ever had,” the experienced Lafferty said. Horsham’s man felt he deserved the win. “I felt I won every round and pushed the whole fight.” Ben leaves with the respect of everyone who witnessed the battle and a secure future in the sport.